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Nearly three-fourths of GCS schools met or exceeded growth in 2019

Nearly three-fourths (74 %) of GCS schools met or exceeded student academic growth in 2019, said GCS leaders during a presentation on the district’s Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS) growth at Tuesday night’s board meeting.

The presentation updated the Board of Education on progress towards meeting two goals the Board has established in its strategic plan. By accelerating student growth, the district hopes to decrease longstanding gaps in achievement among different student demographic groups.

One way to check the progress of meeting these goals is by measuring them with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs.) The presentations on Tuesday night focused on EVAAS measures, which indicate whether teachers and/or schools are growing students academically.

To meet expected growth targets, students must demonstrate about one year’s worth of academic progress on state tests. Students who exceed growth generally have mastered more than one year’s worth of material.

Research indicates that student growth scores more closely align to in-school factors such as the quality of classroom teaching and learning, while proficiency measures on state tests are more closely aligned to demographic factors such as family income or parent/guardian educational levels, according to Akisha Osei Sarfo, chief accountability officer.

Goal IV of the strategic plan seeks to increase by 50 percent the number of schools that exceed growth by 2022. In tracking performance towards Goal IV, GCS analyzed whether all schools met or exceeded growth in reading across grades three through eight, math across grades four through eight, and Math 1.

Across grades three through eight, GCS has met or exceeded growth in reading for three years. The district also met or exceeded growth in Math 1 for the past three years. The district exceeded growth in fifth grade math in 2018-2019, however, the district did not meet or exceed growth in math in 2018-2019 for the remaining grades evaluated.

The district expects student math performance and growth to improve with the recent introduction of high quality instructional resources and professional development in math for kindergarten through eighth grade and for Math I, according to Whitney Oakley, chief academic officer.

However, the ongoing teacher shortage, which is especially acute in math and science, poses ongoing challenges, according to Oakley. “With more new and lateral entry teachers coming into the district than we have ever had before, ongoing training and support are going to be required,” said Oakley.

Goal V of the GCS strategic plan is to decrease the achievement gap between black and Latino students and their white peers by seven percentage points. In tracking performance towards this goal, GCS looked at how student growth by teacher in the 10 lowest-performing schools has changed from the 2017-2018 school year to the 2018-2019 school year.

After putting incentives in place to attract higher performing teachers and extend the reach of top educators to impact more students in our lowest performing schools, the percentage of teachers who met or exceeded growth in these schools grew from below 70 percent to above
80 percent.

“Growth in our schools and subjects indicate that our strategic focus and investments in teaching and learning are working. In a district like ours, where more children are entering kindergarten unprepared for learning, efforts to grow our students are likely to alter the life trajectories of our most challenged students in positive ways,” said Osei Sarfo.

“The data indicate that our academic and human resource initiatives are achieving some traction in our lowest performing schools and that training and retaining great teachers is beneficial for students across the district,” said Oakley.  “All students deserve better learning and life outcomes, regardless of the school they attend, and that’s the focus of our work.”